Key points 

  • Rethink Priorities (RP) has launched a Special Projects (SP) Program to help start promising EA initiatives by providing fiscal sponsorship and full-service operational support–including, but not limited to hiring, finance, event planning, and communications. 
  • A key strength of RP is its operations. We have been able to scale the organization from 1.5 full-time equivalents (FTE) staff to nearly 50 FTE in just four years.
  • The SP Program advances projects that RP would like to see happen and allows these projects to focus on their core work rather than worrying about running their organization.
  • Current special projects include Epoch, the Insect Welfare ProjectUnjournalEA Market TestingCondor Camp, and EA Pathfinder.
  • There are various ways to get involved in the SP Program: join our team, apply to have your project sponsored, or share with us lessons you’ve learned incubating projects if you have experience in this arena. Please reach out by submitting an Expression of Interest form. 

About Rethink Priorities

Founded in 2018, RP is dedicated to informing decisions made by high-impact organizations and funders across various cause areas. To date, our team has conducted over 50 person-years of work (you can find all our public research here). One of our key strengths is our operational capacity, which allows us to recruit, onboard, and support talented researchers to produce quality work with minimal bureaucratic red tape. 

Given our strong operations, RP would like to support other promising EA projects – particularly longtermist ones – in getting off the ground. To this end, we recently launched a new Special Projects Program.  

About the Special Projects Program

As an off-shoot of our Operations Department, Special Projects is a distinct team dedicated to supporting the launch of new projects rather than running RP’s day-to-day operations.

The team’s Acting Director Carolyn Footitt is leading this work with Associates María De la Lama and Cristina Schmidt Ibáñez. Their projects generally fall under two areas:

  1. Incubated (internal)–In addition to our research agenda, RP is incubating direct work and other projects that advance our mission. The SP Team works closely with RP staff to launch these initiatives. Once the incubation period for each respective initiative ends, the project will either conclude or spin-off to become an independent organization. 
  2. Fiscally sponsored (external)–The SP Team is also providing fee-based fiscal sponsorship and support to projects that are managed by individuals outside of RP. Within this model, the project’s founders maintain autonomy and decision-making authority while we provide them with operational and fiduciary oversight.

Our services

Although our involvement will depend on the project, in general, the SP Team will provide operational support to projects much in the way that our Core Operations Team supports RP’s work. Such services might include developing and managing budgets, accounting, contracting, running hiring rounds, planning the onboarding of new staff, hosting and developing the project website, and other operations tasks outlined in the below chart.  

Current Special Projects

The SP Team is currently incubating the following projects:

  • LAISR, an AI strategy retreat
  • The provisionally-named Insect Welfare Project to address welfare concerns around the growing insect farming industry
  • Unjournal, an open platform for research relevant to global priorities
  • EA Market Testing, a survey on how to best promote effective giving and action
  • EA Pathfinder, an initiative to advise and support mid-career professionals looking to switch into EA work
  • Condor Camp, an EA and longtermism training and community-building project in Brazil

The SP Team also helped to launch Epoch, a new AI research initiative, which we are continuing to fiscally sponsor. 

Highlights
 

From late July to early August, Condor Camp held its first retreat with 13 highly talented Brazilian university students. Seminars and workshops focused on how to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, including AI safety, pandemics, biosecurity, global health and poverty, and animal welfare. Following this event, RP’s Associate Researcher Renan Araújo is now:

  • Keeping the camp’s alumni engaged with EA projects
  • Gathering lessons that may be relevant for other EA training projects
  • Strategizing how to maintain momentum in building the EA movement in Brazil and throughout Latin America

RP has been helping Epoch to hire for multiple research roles. Supporting the initiative’s operations frees up the researchers’ time so they can focus on their work. 

Thus far, the researchers have already done a deep dive into machine learning model size trends in which they identified distinct patterns in vision and language model sizes over time and hypothesized reasons for these patterns. 

Through this type of work, Epoch aims to support strategy and forecasting around the development of transformative artificial intelligence–AI that could have an impact as significant as the industrial revolution.

We’re seeking new projects

RP is interested in fiscally sponsoring additional projects that are aligned with our mission and values. Currently, we are especially interested in longtermist megaprojects, but this is not a requirement; we are open to hearing about any initiative in the EA space. Some sample projects might include (but are certainly not limited to): civilizational refugesEA early warning forecasting, and red-teaming initiatives. If in doubt, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Special Projects Team. 

The best way to get in touch with us is to submit an Expression of Interest form. This form will be open on an ongoing basis. We are excited to hear from those who are interested in: 

  • Working on the Special Projects Team
  • Fiscal sponsorship/project incubation
  • Sharing information (e.g. tips/lessons learned about running longtermist or other incubation projects)
  • Or have other ideas that they’d like to share

 

Acknowledgments

This post is a project of Rethink Priorities–a think tank dedicated to informing decisions made by high-impact organizations and funders across various cause areas. The author is Rachel Norman. Thanks to Carolyn Footitt for their helpful input. If you are interested in RP’s work, please visit our research database and subscribe to our newsletter

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:01 AM
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I'm very excited to see this launch. As someone who is running an EA-aligned organisation myself, I honestly think that assistance with writing a budget could be one of the most impactful ways of helping people get a project off the ground and I would love to see someone start an additional project focusing specifically on this.

If people need help with creating a budget or just want advice, I could potentially help. Feel free to email peter@rethinkpriorities.org